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A tachometer (revolution-counter, tach, rev-counter, RPM gauge) is an instrument

measuring the rotation speed of ashaft or disk, as in a motor or other machine.[1] The device
usually displays the revolutions per minute (RPM) on a calibrated analogue dial, but digital
displays are increasingly common.
Speed of a rotating shaft or motor needs to be measured as this has several practical uses. For
example on a ship a navigating officer at the bridge or an engineer in the ECR needs to know what
speed and direction the engine is rotating. How is this measured and how does the instrument

A tachometer is an instrument which is used to measure the revolution speed of any rotating object
such as a shaft or motor. It has it uses in the marine engineering field as well and is used to gauge
speed of marine diesel engines on board ships and whether they are rotating in the ahead or
astern direction. In this article you will learn about the working principle of a tachometer.

Types of Tachometers
Tachometers may seem similar from outside in that they have a display which shows the speed but
internally they are based on various different principles and we have several different types of
tachometers such as the following

Mechanical Tachometers
Magnetic Tachometers
A.C. Tachometers
D.C. Tachometers

The basic purpose of the tachometer is same irrespective of its construction and we will learn
about two types in this article namely a mechanical tachometer and a D.C. tachometer.

Mechanical Tachometer
As you can see in the diagram below this type of tachometer is nothing but a linkage of

shafts, gears and rotating weights. When the input shaft which is seen horizontal rotates the
vertical shaft it also rotates the weights attached to it which are hinged and free to move inward
and outwards. The movement of these flyweights rotates a pointer which is calibrated to give the
speed in desired units such as RPM.
Two main drawbacks of this are that the mechanical weights have inertia and hence not very
accurate and secondly it does not give an indication of the direction of rotation.

D.C. Tachometer
The D.C. tachometer can be compared to an Ammeter which is used to measure current in that the
pointer in this case is deflected in proportion to the current flowing through a moving coil which
gets this current from the D.C. generator. This can be seen in the diagram and the permanent
magnets give the necessary magnetic flux for the operation while the spinning motion is provided
by the input from the shaft or motor whose speed has to be measured. Apart from telling the
magnitude this arrangement also has the advantage of telling the direction of rotation of the shaft
i.e. in the ahead or astern direction.
Hence we see that this instrument can be used on the control panel in the engine control room as
well as bridge to tell the duty engineer or duty officer about the speed and direction of rotation of
the engine.


An electromechanical generator is a device capable of producing electrical power

from mechanical energy, usually the turning of a shaft. When not connected to a
load resistance, generators will generate voltage roughly proportional to shaft
speed. With precise construction and design, generators can be built to produce
very precise voltages for certain ranges of shaft speeds, thus making them wellsuited as measurement devices for shaft speed in mechanical equipment. A
generator specially designed and constructed for this use is called
a tachometer or tachogenerator. Often, the word tach (pronounced tack) is used
rather than the whole word.

By measuring the voltage produced by a tachogenerator, you can easily determine

the rotational speed of whatever its mechanically attached to. One of the more
common voltage signal ranges used with tachogenerators is 0 to 10 volts.
Obviously, since a tachogenerator cannot produce voltage when its not turning, the
zero cannot be live in this signal standard. Tachogenerators can be purchased
with different full-scale (10 volt) speeds for different applications. Although a
voltage divider could theoretically be used with a tachogenerator to extend the
measurable speed range in the 0-10 volt scale, it is not advisable to significantly
overspeed a precision instrument like this, or its life will be shortened.
Tachogenerators can also indicate the direction of rotation by the polarity of the
output voltage. When a permanent-magnet style DC generators rotational
direction is reversed, the polarity of its output voltage will switch. In measurement
and control systems where directional indication is needed, tachogenerators
provide an easy way to determine that.
Tachogenerators are frequently used to measure the speeds of electric motors,
engines, and the equipment they power: conveyor belts, machine tools, mixers,
fans, etc.